“It is a fact that in the right formation, the lifting power of many wings can achieve twice the distance of any bird flying alone.” ~ Milton Olson
Many of us are beginning new classes with new learners. The first days of class are very important for helping our students begin to build relationships with their peers. Getting to know you activities are fun and help us ensure we have a semester full of lasting memories. For teenagers, it is a great way of preventing problems, such as bullying and cliques as teens find it more difficult to be consistently mean to a friend versus a stranger. For adults, these activities promote a classroom culture of trust and respect. Adults struggle with learning because they aren’t used to making mistakes in front of strangers. When they get to know each other these strangers become friends and they begin to feel more confident making mistakes. For language learning, it is important our learners make mistakes in class so that they can learn from them. Beyond these benefits, these activities will motivate your students to use language related to their real world experiences. In this way, they personalize their learning. Watch the recording of my recent webinar on this topic here!
Getting to Know You Activities
1. Who Am I?
- Each student tells a favorite food, place of travel, or whatever you choose to have them answer.
- The students record these answers or write them on a piece of paper. Do not have them add their names.
- Put all recordings or slips of papers in a bag.
- Students reach in, grab one, and find the person who submitted the answer.
2. Speed Dating
- Divide the class into 2 rows and seat them across from each other. One row will stay seated the entire time and the second row will move.
- Create a scenario such as this one that you will tell your students before the lesson.
- Scenario for adults: The company is partnering co-workers for a special project. You must figure out who you’d be most compatible with since you’ll work with him/her for the year.
- Scenario for teens: You will work with partners for an upcoming project. You must figure out who you’d be most compatible with since you’ll work with him/her and you want to have a fun and successful project.
- Each student is handed a card with everyone’s names and where they can jot down similarities, differences, and more about each person. Prepare these ahead of time.
- The teacher starts the timer for 1-2 minutes and each student tries to find out as much about the other person by talking.
- Then they switch to the next person.
- They must mark down 3 people they’d like to work with and write a short paragraph explaining why.
3. Show and Tell
- Students divide into small groups of 3 to 5
- Students choose pictures from their mobile devices
- They explain the meaning behind the picture
4. Meaningful Mementos
- Students bring in small objects that are meaningful to them
- They introduce themselves by explaining how the object represents them
- You can instruct them the day before to collect 3 to 5 of these objects in a plastic cup to bring to class.
- The class will sit in a circle and each student takes a turn to take out the object and explain the significance of that object
5. Two Truths and a Lie
- Divide the class in a circle or have them sit on pillows on the floor.
- Students tell 2 truths and 1 lie about themselves.
- The other students guess which is the lie.
6. Old Photos Revisited
- Students bring in photos from their past
- They hang them on the board
- Students write down the name of who they think it is
- The owner of the photo talks about the memory
7. Bucket Lists
- Students write down 3 things they want to accomplish before they die
- They get into pairs and discuss their lists
- Taking it further! Check out examples of Bucketlist videos or show some of these ideas with your students before the activity.
8. Goal Collages/Vision Boards
- Vision Boards is the term given when working with adults. They write down their visions and goals for achieving success in their lives and work settings.
- Students write down goals they want to achieve by the end of the year
- Then students create a poster or online poster of images and inspiring statements that will help them achieve their learning goals
- These tools are great to make online goal collages or vision boards: ThingLink, Vuvox, Glogster, Webdoc, and Muzy
- Check out this idea explained here!
9. 3,2,1 Introduction
- Each student will use a digital tool to create a digital storytelling video, comic strip, interactive poster, book, or slideshow with the following information: 3 things we should know about you, 2 places you love to visit, 1 job you wish you had.
- As the teacher you can change the categories to your liking.
- Watch several examples here completed by teachers for my online Digital Storytelling MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)
- This idea came from Nicky Hockly‘s webinar and book Teaching Online
10. Create a Google Search Story
- This cool tool allows students to quickly make a video online by using Google search. They can choose Creative Commons music to accompany the video. This short video is posted on Youtube.
- Students get into pairs, watch their videos, and discuss
11. Create a Museum of Me
- This cool tool allows students to see beautiful videos of their Facebook activity. Each student must have a Facebook account for this to work.
- These videos are not published anywhere, but if the student allows it there will be pictures included on their Facebook page. I did a Jing of mine so I would have it for keeps.
- Students get into pairs, watch their videos, and discuss
- Many teens and adults regularly visit their Facebook accounts and this activity can be a way to motivate your learners to tie in their social media activity to their learning.
- This would also be a great way to begin a lesson about digital footprints and how to begin creating positive ones.
12. Getting to Know You Surveys
- Download my Find Someone Who Bingo here and adjust as you’d like
Bookmarks of Tools
Find many more icebreakers listed here!
Check for examples of tools in my PearlTree of Resources: Digital Storytelling!
Every Friday I conduct a Free Webinar thanks to American TESOL. Please check the Livebinder for times, video archives, and more.
Challenge: Try any of these ideas with your students this year and tell us how it went.
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